After giving birth to my daughter, I just didn’t feel like my normal self. I was grumpy, easily annoyed, and mentally and physically exhausted. I was still reeling from a traumatic pregnancy, and some dear friends suggested I go to counseling to talk it out. I was eager to attend my first counseling session because I thought it would be a prime opportunity to vent about my current challenges.
I went in ready to discuss me and my feelings, so when my counselor suggested we include my husband in the remaining counseling sessions, I was taken aback. I balked at the idea of him attending.
We don’t need counseling, I thought.
Like many others, my husband and I assumed that seeing a counselor implied something was inherently wrong with our marriage. Neither of us wanted to feel like we were failing at being good spouses, nor did we want others to believe our marriage was “on the rocks.”
And yet, because we both desired a better marriage, we committed to biweekly sessions with our counselor.
Overcoming the Taboo
As a Christian woman of color, I’ve noticed that marriage counseling can be taboo subject among both the Christian and the African American communities. I believe this stigma thrives for several reasons.
1. Self-Help Culture
You’ve got to pull yourself out of this. Stop being dramatic; you don’t need counseling. You can help yourself and save the money. At one time or another, I’ve heard counseling dismissed in all these ways.
Such exhortations reveal that many of us have a self-centered view when it comes to growth. Our pride leads us to believe we don’t need help. Instead of viewing counseling as a mark of wisdom, we’re prone to view it as a blemish of weakness.
Sadly, our reluctance to receive help often reveals deep fear. We fear we’re beyond repair.
In years past, I doubted the effectiveness of counseling simply because I magnified my struggles so they seemed insurmountable. In my mind, my problems were too big for even a professional to fix.
I didn’t grow up in an environment where counseling was regularly discussed or promoted, so I had many misconceptions. I viewed counseling as a response to things gone wrong, as opposed to a precursor for personal growth and healthier relationships. I believed counseling would always be too expensive; I was unaware of the mental-health benefits offered by many employers. I was wary of most counselors because I didn’t want to be influenced wrongly; I didn’t know if could find a Christian counselor who shared my convictions and upheld a biblical worldview.
Humility Receives Help
Initially, because of these misunderstandings, my husband and I both hesitated at the thought of marriage counseling. We were proud. Extremely proud. But during each session, we got a heavy dose of humility as we learned about specific areas in our marriage that needed work.
As humans, our lack of humility can be traced back to Genesis 3. The fall of man immediately followed our prideful rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden. But in his infinite grace and mercy, he didn’t abandon us. He rescued us by sending Christ to save us from sin.
But to receive the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice, we must humbly repent. At the heart of embracing the gospel is humility. God resists the proud; only the humble will receive his grace (James 4:6). This point is central to all of Christian life: We must be humbled. We must recognize our need for help. Our marriages are no different.
These days, our marriage-counseling sessions resemble a routine wellness appointment. Typically, when someone goes to the doctor for a wellness appointment, the doctor simply checks that everything is working properly, but sometimes he or she will find something requiring a bit more attention. This is the case with us. Although we often feel like everything is fine in our marriage, through our counselor we are able to uncover areas of our marriage that require help.
Now, when my friends discuss their marriages with me, I don’t hesitate to recommend they see a counselor who is godly and possesses a biblical worldview.
My husband and I view marriage counseling as a grace that’s beautifully reshaping our marriage. Our lessons in humility began with taking the first step to pursue counseling, and they continue with each session. Our commitment to continue counseling serves as a simple yet grand reminder of our lifelong commitment to love, honor, and cherish one another.